Speaker rips senator for 'monkeys' analogy

Bill Kintner The state senator compared the Legislature to monkeys in an experiment.


LINCOLN — Speaker of the Legislature Galen Hadley took to the legislative floor Thursday to chastise State Sen. Bill Kintner of Papillion for a newspaper column comparing state lawmakers to monkeys.

The speaker took an unusually harsh tone in his comments, saying he was tired of having members of the Legislature taking potshots at the body.

"If you don't like being in the body, leave. Get out," he said.

The speech was met with a standing ovation from other lawmakers.

Kintner, who has caused controversy for his remarks in the past, was not in the legislative chamber.

The speaker did not name Kintner but said he was responding to a recent column in the Plattsmouth Journal.

Kintner wrote a column that appeared on the paper's opinion page Tuesday. In it he wrote about what is known as the "five monkeys experiment," involving a banana placed high above the reach of the monkeys. When one monkey climbs a ladder to reach the banana, all the monkeys are sprayed with cold water.

As this continues, the other monkeys try to prevent being sprayed with water by attacking any monkey who tries to go up the ladder.

The monkeys are replaced one by one with new ones, yet the string of attacks continues because the behavior has been learned.

"Why, you ask? Because in their minds, that is the way it has always been!" Kintner wrote. "This is how it is at times in Nebraska's Unicameral Legislature. This analogy is very relevant to what can happen in legislative bodies."

Kintner went on to compare the original group of monkeys to "leadership" and the cold water to "media." He said they work together to maintain the status quo by pulling down any nonconforming new senators and pressuring them to give up their campaign promises.

Following the speaker's remarks, Kintner defended his column. He said he had used an analogy to make a point and it was not meant to be personal against any lawmakers.

"It was more disrespectful to monkeys," he said, hastening to make clear, "That's a joke."

Kintner said he is not concerned with how his colleagues might react to the column.

He also questioned why the speaker has not similarly criticized Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, who frequently calls the Legislature racist. Hadley said he would respond to that question if Kintner raises it directly.

Earlier in the week, Kintner posted on his Senator Bill Kintner Facebook page that he spends "my fair time in the Capitol with 'prostitutes.'" He posted the comments along with a photo of himself and State Tax Commissioner Tony Fulton, saying that if Jesus could hang out with prostitutes and tax collectors, he could, too.

Asked to explain the reference to prostitutes, Kintner pointed to "politicians, former politicians and lobbyists." Later in the comments thread, he said he had been having fun.

"Obviously the politicians and lobbyists are not actually prostitutes," he said.

Hadley said he spoke out because Nebraska lawmakers have a long history of working together and respecting each other.

"I thought it was time to remind people about the respect I expect people to give each other," he said.

Contact the writer: 402-473-9583, martha.stoddard@owh.com

Commenting is limited to Omaha World-Herald subscribers. To sign up, click here.

If you're already a subscriber and need to activate your access or log in, click here.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Please keep it clean, turn off CAPS LOCK and don't threaten anyone. Be truthful, nice and proactive. And share with us - we love to hear eyewitness accounts.

You must be a digital subscriber to view this article.